The Sister Missionaries: the Beliefs

There’s no way I could ever be a Mormon. It’s just not going to happen. I disagree fundamentally with too many of the tenants of the faith, and I see too much hypocrisy ignorance within the church. I actually have quite a few concerns with the Mormon Church, but for the sake of not being a complete nitpick, I’ve chosen just a few to highlight. The greatest reasons, if you will.

Knowing something is true because the Holy Spirit tells you it is
This is the single most hit upon idea in every meeting I’ve had with the sisters, and it’s the one I have the hardest time grasping. The rest of it is creepy and/or sexist and/or just plain stupid, but the idea that the Holy Spirit will give you a feeling of rightness (or goodness or whatever you want to call it) if only you just ask if the Book of Mormon is true (ie: is the Word of God) is just… incomprehensible to me. Well, I mean, it seems like a pretty shaky thing to base a religion on… what am I talking about? That is religion. Ugh. My answer to this idea is Dustin’s “ex-testimony”, wherein he says:

I identified the foundation of my belief. I realized that it was not the Book of Mormon, or the First Vision, or the Atonement. It was the Holy Ghost (HG) that witnessed to me that these things were true. Anything I knew about the church and the gospel I knew because I had received a witness that I believed had come from the HG. So I began to analyze this foundation which was the HG. I realized that I had no way to show that what I had experienced actually was the HG…

The more I tried to find a way to justify that what a believer feels is the HG, the more I realized that it was just a shared assumption among believers that the HG existed and that the HG was the explanation for what they felt…

Hopefully, in analyzing my story you will take into account the nights where I would kneel on my bed, put my face into my pillow in tears and beg for an answer. “If you are there just please reveal yourself to me in a way that I can know it’s you. Please…..Please….Please. I just need to know.” Hopefully you will take into account how I begged and pleaded to have the strength to overcome this issue. And most of all, hopefully you will take into account the covenant I made with god. I told god that if he would just give me an answer such that I could know that he was there, I would never, ever, ever stop trying to serve him to the best of my ability, and would continue to dedicate my entire life to his cause. I wish the words that I am putting down could convey to you how much, how hard, and eventually how pathetically in tears I pleaded for these things over and over and over for many months.

There was one other thing that I tried to do to find out that god existed. All my life I had been told about how amazing the Book of Mormon was and how the only explanation for it was that it came from god…

[Still,] I found that nothing the “anti-Mormons” could throw at me was able to show me that the Book of Mormon had any other possible explanation than that god had done it…

But then it happened. I stumbled across a quote made by B. H. Roberts. B. H. Roberts was a member of the first quorum of the seventy in the early nineteen hundreds. He wrote one of the comprehensive church history series. This was a serious player in the LDS faith. He said that it was possible that Joseph Smith, if he was creative enough, could have come up with the BoM based on the information available to him where he grew up (make sure you check this for yourself, don’t just take my word for it). I was stunned. I immediately began to search to see if it was just a lie. Something made up by “anti-Mormons” to cause unbelief. I checked the FAIR apologetics site. Even they knew of this and had some ideas about what it actually meant. Their best answer was that he was playing devil’s advocate. But even if he was, it was still a possibility according to a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy that the Book of Mormon could have come some way other than god. All the strength the Book of Mormon held as evidence that the church was true came crashing down…

Sorry for the extensive quotation, but that right there is what I believe about the Holy Spirit and the Book of Mormon in a (very tiny) nutshell. I haven’t done the research like Dustin did, but I did look up B.H. Roberts, and I know that what he said about the Book of Mormon (whether he was playing devil’s advocate or not) is true.

Being with your family forever, even after death
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I want to be with my family forever, even after death. I love my family so so much, and I don’t know what I would do without them, but having them around 24/7 right now is challenging enough. I might do something drastic if I had to deal with that for all eternity.

Only men may hold the priesthood
I asked multiple times why only men are allowed to hold the priesthood and, indeed, women can’t even get into (the highest level of) heaven without a priesthood holder (who is in good standing with the church, of course). I got a range of responses from the Mormon missionaries who were teaching me, such as “Women were given all of God’s other gifts”—especially the gift of being able to create life and give birth, oh you lucky women you—“so He had to give men something.” and “I wouldn’t want to be in a position with that kind of power anyway. It’s much nicer to be someone’s helpmate.” and “God challenged men to learn through practice what women are born with and have naturally.”

If you don’t already know this about me, I love tattoos. Love them. I think they’re beautiful and create/relate history. Telling stories is important for people to know who they are, and tattoos tell stories. They open people up to learning and creativity. (They also, of course, scare a lot of people exactly for the reason that “your body is a temple” and that it’s permanent body modification that’s, well, permanent.) As for Mormons,

Latter-day prophets strongly discourage the tattooing of the body. Those who disregard this counsel show a lack of respect for themselves and for God. …If you have a tattoo, you wear a constant reminder of a mistake you have made. You might consider having it removed.

Italics mine. via (also) Having tattoos, I admit, may be a mistake for some people, but just assuming that getting/having one is “a mistake you have made” is pretty judgmental. I love my tattoos; they’re a reminder of the good I’ve done, the things I’ve been through, and the shit I’m no longer willing to put up with… Like, for example, body shaming bullshit.

A woman’s primary duty is to bear children and raise them
They’ve at least given lip service to the idea of birth control, but even the language there basically discourages its use. “Elective abortion” is right out (as I expected from such a conservative religious group) and abortion for other reasons is discouraged. (Because, you know, all the ladies want to go have abortions just for funsies.) And also, every woman should want to have kids (go forth and multiply, and all that) because, you know, the population might die out if we don’t reproduce right now. *eye roll* Sex is for procreation only and only with your male life partner, to whom you are married. Of course. Once a woman has kids, she will obviously quit her job and become supermom because that’s her calling. That’s every woman’s calling.

Marriage between one man and one woman
I could wax poetic my thoughts on marriage generally speaking, but for the sake of this post, let me just say that someone who wants to marry another person should legally be able to. That’s already true for heterosexual couples, but it also goes for gay, lesbian, and genderqueer couples; polygamists (yes, I went there); groups; and so on. People who want to have the rights and privileges of marriage under the law should be able to, as long as they know what they’re getting into and agree to it. Mormons have this idea that “family” means one man, one woman, and children, and that definition is so ridiculously strict, it’s practically unbelievable. Don’t believe me? Just read The Family: A Proclamation to the World and tell me that doesn’t chafe just a little bit. (I should really take the time to pick apart said proclamation, but until that happens, have a looksee at this critique.) And let’s not even get me started on whether GLBT people by themselves—not even counting what they do in the bedroom and with whom they do it—are accepted and loved in the LDS Church. -_-

Church-sanctioned history vs. actual history
Sadly, I knew more about the actual history (that actually happened) of Joseph Smith and the church than did the Mormon missionaries who were teaching me. Mormons, by the sisters’ own admission, are allowed only “faith-promoting” discussion (no room for doubt, obviously, if the Holy Spirit told you the Book of Mormon was the word of God; doubt must be your fault) and the church’s version of How the Latter Day Saints Came to Be is… significantly glossed over and rose-tinted compared to, you know, reality.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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